Another summer is fully upon us, which means things both good (beaches) and bad (heat waves) cropping up in abundance. This month’s notable reading includes a number of candid memoirs offering nuanced looks on romanticized pursuits, as well as a few mind-expanding forays into scientific history. And if you’re looking for gripping fiction, we’ve got you covered there as well.
So pick out a title from the list below, find an appropriately shaded area, crack open a cold beverage and make the most of what can be a cruel month.
The Drop: How the Most Addictive Sport Can Help Us Understand Addiction and Recovery by Thad Ziolkowski (July 6)
2003 saw the publication of Thad Ziolkowski’s memoir On a Wave, in which he revisited a youth spent surfing and how the sport changed his life. With his new book The Drop, Ziolkowski returns to the same world, but from a different angle — specifically, examining how surfing, addiction and recovery are intertwined, both in his own life and more generally.
The Icepick Surgeon: Murder, Fraud, Sabotage, Piracy, and Other Dastardly Deeds Perpetrated in the Name of Science by Sam Kean (July 13)
Sometimes, looking into the history of science can lead us to unpleasant revelations about the past. The changing attitudes towards J. Marion Sims, who experimented on enslaved women, serve as one example. In Sam Kean’s The Icepick Surgeon, Kean ventures into places where the pursuit of knowledge led people into ethically dodgy or outright appalling acts.
Trejo: My Life of Crime, Redemption, and Hollywood by Danny Trejo with Donal Logue (July 6)
Instantly recognizable character actor, restaurant owner and occasional falconer Danny Trejo has covered a lot of ground in his life. With his new memoir, Trejo offers the full scope of his life, offering both a story of personal redemption and an inside look at an acting career that has spanned decades.
After Cooling: On Freon, Global Warming, and the Terrible Cost of Comfort by Eric Dean Wilson (July 6)
If you followed any coverage of the recent heat wave around the country (or endured it), you probably have some feelings on air conditioning. In After Cooling, Eric Dean Wilson explores the history of freon, which offered a respite from heat but also contributed to climate change, thus heightening the problem it was designed to alleviate.
Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby (July 6)
S.A. Cosby’s previous novel, Blacktop Wasteland, was a gripping heist narrative with a powerful character study hidden inside. In his new novel Razorblade Tears, Cosby offers another story of people pushed to their limits — in this case, two aging men with criminal pasts who join forces to seek revenge for the deaths of their sons.
Until Proven Safe: The History and Future of Quarantine by Geoff Manaugh and Nicola Twilley (July 20)
Geoff Manaugh’s 2016 book A Burglar’s Guide to the City provided a fascinating look at the way architecture, security and crime can converge. Now, Manaugh and collaborator Nicola Twilley take on a very different part of design and culture: quarantine, and the ways it’s been utilized over the centuries. It’s a subject that remains all too relevant right now.
This Is Your Mind on Plants by Michael Pollan (July 6)
What draws humanity to certain plants? For his latest foray into the world of botany and civilization, Pollan focuses on a trio of plants that people use in a host of ways: opium, caffeine and mescaline. What follows is an in-depth look at how policies surrounding all three have shifted over the years, and from culture to culture.
To End a Plague: America’s Fight to Defeat AIDS in Africa by Emily Bass (July 6)
In 2003, the American government commenced the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, also known as PEPFAR. A 2018 article in the New England Journal of Medicine (co-authored by one Dr. Anthony Fauci) noted that it had had “an unprecedented impact on the pandemic of HIV and AIDS.” In Emily Bass’s book To End a Plague, Bass chronicles the scientific and logistical challenges that it took to implement a program that saved lives on a massive scale.
The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig (July 20)
The novels of Chuck Wendig blend a wry humor with gripping plots — his pandemic epic Wanderers is a deeply compelling science fiction novel. His new novel finds him working on the horror side of the equation, telling the story of a Pennsylvania family dealing with a sinister force in a small town, along with the weight of their own histories.
The Sunset Route: Freight Trains, Forgiveness, and Freedom on the Rails in the American West by Carrot Quinn (July 6)
For some people, riding the rails is a means of survival; for others, it’s a way to live a thrilling life with few boundaries or limits. In her new memoir The Sunset Route, Carrot Quinn chronicles her own time living on the margins of American society, and of the people she met and subcultures she embraced along the way.
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